As many of you know I’m a sponsored blogger this year by the National Pork Board. Not all of the stories that they send me make sense for a travel audience. One of the stories they sent recently was a new study that showed that pork is 40% cheaper than similar beef products (Choosing Pork This Summer Adds Up To Season-Long Savings). My first thought was to skip that story but it occurred to me that this is part of a larger story on little ways to save money for travel. So with thanks to the pork board for inspiration here are some big and little ways to save money in your daily life to spend on travel.
Big Money Issues
I’m in the process of losing weight and one of the things that it has taught me is that if you want to change your behavior you will have more success if you know what you’re doing now. So the first practice I would recommend for anyone who is looking to save money is to do a budget. Keep track of where you’re spending your money now because you may discover places to save money that I haven’t thought of.
I’m a big fan of using credit cards that give me frequent flyer miles. We have perhaps one hundred thousand miles right now in various frequent flyer programs. Many of these were earned through credit card purchases. But credit card purchases might be a very poor recommendation for you if you are carrying credit card debt. If you don’t pay off your credit cards every month, you should not use credit cards. Credit cards are a wonderful convenience but the number of people who are sinking into credit card debt by only paying off the minimums every month is frightening. Credit card debt has no advantages. So the first thing you should do if you’re holding credit card debt is paid it off as soon as possible.
My son and his financée just had to do an emergency road trip to Chicago and we were able to help with hotel rooms because we had a cache of points on our Marriott Bonvoy card. We also often pay the airline tickets for our big annual trips with miles from our United Explorer Visa or Chase Sapphire card. (Read more at How to Choose the Best Travel Credit Card.) The trick is not to spend any money that you would not otherwise be spending.
Let’s assume that you didn’t get sucked into leasing a car instead of buying a car. Outside of mortgage payments and rent most Americans spend more money on cars and travel than anything else. Therefore your choice of car can limit your travel choices. When your car is paid off keep driving it if it is still working. Don’t assume that paying off your car loan means it’s time to buy a new car. When you do go to buy a new car, might the slightly used car that is still in good shape be a better option? Buy for reliability. Buy for price. Buy for transportation.
People who were planning a trip around the world sometimes start by downsizing their house. Housing can be a big and important portion of your budget. You may or may not be willing to downsize but there are other ways to reduce your housing budget. We have taken in the local foreign student from China who is a border. Not only does this help with paying the mortgage, but she is a pleasant addition to our household. Part of what we love about travel is interacting with other cultures. Now we don’t even have to leave home to do that. Contact your local college or high school to see if they might be looking for homes for homestays for foreign students.
We have paid for our mortgage for the last 5 years by doing Airbnb hosting. We host interesting people in our home and they pay our mortgage. (See more at How to Start an Airbnb – Tips from an Airbnb Superhost).
Even better than saving money can be finding different ways to turn hobbies into money. I obviously blog and podcast and that can add up to Athens of thousands of dollars. My daughter, who is crafty, uses calligraphy to create things for weddings.
Take Others With You
If you have been around Amateur Traveler for a while you know that we do trips annually, often with Intrepid Travel. We pick a destination and then book a trip. (To find out more join the private Facebook group Amateur Traveler Trips). But you can do the same thing with family or friends. Many tour companies will give you a free trip if you can book around 7 other travelers.
Smaller ways to save money can add up. If you can save $4 a day for each workday that is $20 a week or about $1000 over the course of a year. $1000 is roughly a ticket to Europe for us. If you can save just $2 a week that is is roughly $100 a year or the cost of a night in an inexpensive hotel.
I recently canceled our home phone line ($40 a month) after great deliberation. We do have some concerns about what will happen in times of emergency but in a normal day, almost everyone who calls our home number is a telemarketer anyway. We actually saved money on our cable bill by transferring our phone service to our cable provider instead. And then we simply forward that number to Google’s free Google Voice service which sends me a text when we get voicemail on that line.
How much do you spend in a given week on your daily coffee? $4 a day for your Starbucks habit adds up. If you can’t live without your Starbucks, that’s fine, but would you drink it instead of buying a ticket to Europe? Perhaps buying a thermos and brewing your own Starbucks coffee at home is something to consider.
How much does your daily commute cost with gas near $4 a gallon? Do you driving alone or carpool? Could you take public transportation instead? Would your boss be open to you working from home one or two days a week? My commute is at least a gallon of gas every day which again is the cost of that airplane ticket. Perhaps dusting off the bike in the garage is an option as well. If you bike to work maybe you could save on the gym membership also.
I remember when we were in college all of the food in our pantry had no pictures. We would buy the store brand or generic versions of popular brands. We still look to save money on groceries. Now we tend to do that by checking out when things are on sale and stocking up. I am a Diet Coke addict but I never buy it at the regular price because it goes on sale practically every other week. Join the store’s reward card system. Don’t shop when you are hungry because then you are more prone to buying on impulse. And of course, think about buying that pork roast instead of the beef roast or about other ways to substitute something less expensive than your usual items.
I could easily spend around eight dollars a day for lunch even if I eat at inexpensive places. That’s the cost of two tickets to Europe. Packing up my leftovers and taking lunch might be a better alternative. If you do pack your lunch, try to get out of the building and go for a walk. It’s a good break and again a possible alternative to the gym membership.
Next time you fill up your car with gas make sure your tires are properly. Poorly insulated tires use more fuel. Is your house properly insulated or are you spending your money to heat or cool the outdoors? Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.
What other bills do you pay each month without considering? Do you use all the features on your cell phone plan? Do you need the premium channels on your cable bill? Do you read that magazine you subscribe to? When was the last time you actually went to that gym?
If you find that you have to rent a storage unit because you can keep all your stuff in your life, it might be time to reevaluate how much stuff you own. Is it time for a garage sale, an eBay purge, or a trip to Goodwill? Would you have more room for storing things you want by putting in shelves or storage bins under your bed? Would your closets have more space if you got rid of the things you haven’t worn in years? Try this: turn all the clothes on your hanger the “wrong way” in your closet. After a year whichever hangers are still turned the wrong way are clothes, you haven’t worn that period of time. Do you still need them?
Could your date night become a family games night instead? When you do go to the movies could you see the matinee instead or see the movie a month later at the discount theater? Could you replace the book a month club with a library card? Are there free concerts in your town that you could see with friends?
What you do with the money you earn is a choice. It reflects what is important to you, or at least it should. If you want to have more money to travel then some reevaluation of how you spend your money might reveal that you already have the money you need.
What did I miss? How do you save money for travel?